You’re going to continue to hear a lot about redistricting over the next few months. This is the process of drawing political boundaries, which happens every 10 years after the census.
In New York, the process of redistricting is somewhat different from what it’s been in the past. In 2014, New York voters approved a constitutional amendment to create what’s called the “Independent Redistricting Commission” to, at least initially, draw the new electoral maps — “initially” because if the Legislature doesn’t like the maps, it can scrap them and draw its own.
Last month the Independent Redistricting Commission released its first set of draft maps for Congress, the state Senate and the state Assembly. It failed to come up with compromise maps.
Later this month, the IRC will begin a statewide tour to hear the public’s feedback on the maps, which are due in January.
Richard Rifkin, the legal director at Albany Law School’s Government Law Center, who wrote an explainer for Albany Law School titled "Redistricting for the 2022 Elections," said New York is entering a new era with the creation of the commission.
“How this will play out is, at this point, quite uncertain,” he wrote.
But since Rifkin’s primer was published earlier this year, it’s not played out very well, with the Independent Redistricting Commission failing to come to a consensus on new maps.
But was the IRC designed to fail as some have suggested?
According to Rivkin, the commission was a compromise when it was adopted in 2014, which left the Legislature in charge of the final maps.
“[The IRC] was given the authority to draft the initial maps, but the end maps, the end result, the maps had to be approved by the Legislature much as they always have. So, the question is, how different is this?” Rivkin asked.
To Rifkin’s mind, it could be significantly different, but that will depend on whether the IRC’s maps are embraced by the public.
“My view, is if the commission succeeds, and they’re not off to a good start, but if it succeeds in drawing a map that is fair to the voters instead of the political parties and the legal office holders, then there will be public support for what the commission has done, and with public support, the Legislature would then be faced with that support…at the time it draws its maps.”
In other words, Rifkin believes that if the maps drawn by the IRC are embraced by the public, the Legislature would have to incorporate them into the final maps.
“That was the intent. We will see if it works,” Rifkin said.